“This is DerbyCon” where the final words echo’ed in a very emotional closing video that David Kennedy put together for the ending of the DerbyCon 4.0 Conference. Its a con… why would it affect anyone so strongly?  Don’t we all just go to these things to see new hacks, spend some quality time with beer and friends and maybe promote some things then get home to rest before the next one?

Well that’s what I thought until this years DerbyCon….

Forget what Social-Engineer did there, forget about my speech, forget about polygraphs – lets talk about the atmosphere.

I sat down on the couch in the lobby with a Kentucky Bourbon Ale and a young man came and sat next to me and started to tell me his ideas for security training. I listened and told him it was a great idea and he should do a speech at next years Derby about it.  A few moments later someone walked by and said, “Chris, great speech today.”

The young just looked into the distance and said, “This is what I love about DerbyCon… you are a speaker and you sat here and listened to me you didn’t act bigger than me.”  He then told me that he spoke with Dave, Martin, Deviant and a few others and every one of them was cool and just spoke with him.  My reply?  “This is DerbyCon”

The weekend for me was full of awesome competitions where I got to polygraph every one from Dave to an 8-year old kid. (true story) and I got to handcuff willing contestants from ages 50 to 11 and watch the joy on their faces as they escaped from entrapment with ease.

Deviant came and stood at our booth and competed with RenderMan to see who can get out fastest.  Both with out keys took turns freeing themselves from being hogtied with both leg and hand cuffs.  Then Deviant stood there and taught a large crowd how to shim out of handcuffs.

Taylor and his crew from Ace Hackware took time each day to talk to my team and many customers helping them with anything they wanted to know. The Pauldotcom guys to my left where a source of nonstop laughs and the HFC guys – well how can you not love them. My son Colin, who now works for me, spent 2 days learning from the master – Chris Nickerson, then joined me in running my booth.

The weekend flew by till I hit the day of my speech and was routinely pranked by Dave through out the whole grueling hour.  But still today, people are commenting on how much they enjoyed it.

The closing ceremonies where full of laughs, tears, applause and serious displays of emotional content. One audience member was so moved he grabbed the mic and exclaimed that if it were not for his friends and the acceptance he would have killed himself a year ago.  Powerful words.

The mood, after the final video, was happy but serious.  I walked over to give this man Pilgrim, a giant hug.  I never met him, but he outbid me in a special coin I wanted at the HFC auction then after paying WAY too much for it just gave it to someone who wanted it.

During the closing ceremonies he paid way too much for a black badge, donated the money to HFC then gave the badge to someone else he respects. I had to meet this modern day Robin Hood.  I met a man that humbled me by his very generosity and we became instant friends.

I brought a young man with me, his first con ever and he joined in the Crypto Challenge.  Mouse, the tiny adorable little woman we all love, took him under her wing and coached him, pushed him and made him think.  He took 4th place and won a prize.  That is not important what is, is that he left the weekend saying to me – “This changed my life. I want to be a pentester, I want to be a good hacker. Help me.”

Erin, Martin, Adrian, Nick, and of course Dave, you did something that I wasn’t sure could still be done.  You gave people some form of family to look forward to. A place where you don’t have to try to be different to be accepted, just be who you are.

The most powerful part of the weekend was after closing ceremonies I went to the bathroom and there was a man leaning up against the wall sobbing.  I walked up and asked if he was ok.  He told me that he has no one at home, and here he has family and he didn’t want Derby to end.. that it was his family.

DerbyCon and its creators – thank you.  Thank you for doing what you do. Thank you for inspiring people. Thank you for making a difference.  Dave a special thank you for letting me be a part of this amazing event and sticking it out with me through the good, bad and rough times.  THIS IS DERBYCON!


I know I missed many people above who helped or affected me this weekend, but here we go:  Jim Manley, Andrea Hitchcock, Colin, Jessica, Spencer, Johnny Long and your crew, Dave and Erin, Martin and your beautiful daughter, Adrian and your necklace of locks, all my awesome students, Creepy Carl, the other Dave, the Whiskey Club Crew, the Make It Urz couple, JCran, Trey, Pilgrim you are a remarkable person, Gillis, Chris Nickerson, Josh Marpet, Deviant, Renderman, Skydog, DaKahuna, BenTen, and anyone else I missed – thank you for making DerbyCon so awesome.